Writer's Series

3. Changes in how we book, order and pay

3. Changes in how we book, order and pay

Visiting a restaurant or other dining experience has changed over the past decades. New cuisines have been introduced, as have new ingredients and techniques. But perhaps the area where change is going to happen in the near future is in the customer experience side of things. We’re used to phoning a restaurant, making a reservation, arriving, waiting and then going through the order process. And this is timely and costly for a restaurant. It necessitates more staff and doesn’t give the smoothest experience for a customer. But all of this is about to change. Before we look at the potential for change, let’s consider the way things are done right now.

Waiters, receptionists, and cashiers have work hard for their pay in the past and in the present. They could spend their time on fewer admin tasks and more on delighting customers with HLDS's Smart Retail technology. And we will look in more detail at how changes to how we book, order and pay can help here. But for now, we will consider what happens in many restaurants today.

The process of making reservations, orders, and payments from a customer's point of view

There are several steps to get from the idea stage of “I’m hungry,” to the point in time where the food arrives on the table in front of them. These are -

Reservations in person where people walk in and ask, “do you have a table for four at eight?” This concept of making a personal reservation, face to face, means that staff have to be available at all times. This might be kitchen staff who are performing other tasks and cover the reception desk or employing someone to handle reservations. This system doesn’t take into account fluctuations in demand. On busy days, they could be overloaded. On quiet days, they could be paid to do very little.

Reservations through phone calls are another way of dealing with requests. But they have the same issues as reservations in person. Someone needs to answer the phone – many businesses are judged on how quickly they answer a call. That doesn’t take into account what is happening at the restaurant’s end of the line. Staff may already be helping customers or deep in another task. It causes ill-feeling if the phone isn’t answered.

Web & mobile reservations are far more prevalent now, taking into account some of the issues with the above methods of human-to-human contact. This does mean that the restaurant needs to be accurate with their availability as people will book and expect to be catered for. Plus, how many times have you tried to book online, been told the restaurant is full and then made a phone call resulting in getting a table? It happens often.

The origin of menus and how people order

The early menus weren’t for the diners at all. When producing large medieval banquets, the menu was a list so that all of the kitchen staff knew what to make and what order to present it in. Duke Henry of Brunswick is said to be the originator of what we know refer to as a menu when he spotted one such list during a banquet in the 1540’s. He demanded a copy so he could see what was in store for his appetite. This has developed to a list of items to select from. But making an order can take many forms -

Making orders to waiter has been the long-established method of selecting your food. It allows the interaction of asking what is popular, checking dietary requirements and having a conversation. Again, for the restaurant, this is costly. Waiting staff in different parts of the planet earn vastly different sums – not all rely on tips or service charges.

Tablet orders are more prevalent in the modern day. The means using a tablet supplied by the restaurant to interrogate the choices, check the data on dietary requirements and select the desired options. It takes away the need for waiting staff to be on hand at all times. The ordering process sis automated to provide a slicker service – albeit a service less personalised.

Kiosk orders mean that the diners come to the waiting staff and not the other way around. A single kiosk where all orders are placed means that one single member of waiting staff can cater for multiple tables, taking orders, answering questions and passing these orders to the kitchen, usually digitally.

Payment is the last step in a dining experience. Again, traditionally, you had to gain the attention of the waiting staff to ask for your bill and then wait for them to arrive and collect payment. This takes time and rounds off a dining experience.

The future of booking, ordering and paying

We pay for our meals in a variety of ways already. But what if we could remove the time and effort it takes to pay, as well as taking away the time and effort involved in all the other processes of dining out. We have seen that online reservations make the process more streamlined for diners and restaurants alike. And that tablet or kiosk ordering can do the same. What about making payments?

Traditional ways of paying include cash, credit/debit cards. These have been in use for many years. The process of flagging down waiting staff and then being on hold while they collect the card machine means a delay at the end of a dining process. It doesn’t leave a pleasant taste in the mouth.

More modern solutions such as web payments and mobile payments have gone hand in hand with the use of kiosk or tablet ordering. And this makes sense. The restaurant already has payment before they even cook the food. But there are slicker ways of doing this.

Next gen kiosk biometric information payments use data such as fingerprints, eyes, face recognition to automatically take payment from a diner. This negates the possibility of someone leaving without paying as well as making it a much more pleasant experience for the diner. Get in touch if you’d like to find out more about HLDS's Smart Retail technology and how it can help your restaurant business.

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